1. Compare the Arab and Seljuk conquests of the Middle East. How did each group of conquerors control their own followers and supporters and govern their new subjects? Can these conquests be put into a long-term context? Hint: don’t dwell overlong on sequences of events, though it is fine if you want to examine an event as part of a broader analysis of a larger historical process.
The history of the Middle East tells a story of continuous conquer and seemingly One cannot help but recall the Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun, and detect his analysis of historical cycles in the all but systematic rise and fall of ruling forces within this region of the world. Two influential ruling states of the Middle East, the Arab empire and Seljuk empire, inevitably fell prey to the vicious cycle of conquer. From their rise to power to their stance on ruling conquered peoples to their inevitable demise, the Arab and Seljuk empires shared many similarities. Yet, there were also many vast differences that made their respective periods of reign immensely different.
The Islamic empire began its conquest in about the seventh century, CE. This came directly on the back of a recent decline in the ruling power of several major empires. The Roman empire in the west and the Sasanian empire to the north and east were growing ever weaker. Illness and plague had torn through these empires, especially Rome. Such high mortality rates ravaged these ruling states, leaving political and economic arenas in ruins. Yet, plague was not the only thing working against the Roman and Sasanian empires. They were also setting each other up for disaster. For many, many years the late Roman empire and Sasanian empire had been fighting relentlessly for the land north of the Arabian Peninsula. However, since neither side volunteered to back down and give up the land that was so important to both of them, the end result was merely these major empires beating up each other for years. On top of all of this, they also found themselves falling attack from barbarian tribes to the north. With military forces exhausted on these various fronts, the late Roman and Sasanian empires were inevitably setting up conditions ripe for disastrous outcomes. When the Arab empire, equipped with strong group feeling and high aspirations, began its conquest, the deteriorating forces of the late Roman and Sasanian empires were all but helpless against the new and very powerful threat. This is not to say that the Arab conquest was not a great feat by the expanding Islamic empire. However, the condition of those empires surrounding them is something that cannot be overlooked.
As the Seljuk Turks rose to power, they faced a similar scene as the Arabs did. However, the Arabs themselves were, in this case, one of those struggling empires. Existing now only in small, divided states, the Arabian empire had lost most, if not all, of the strong group feeling that had made them such an unstoppable force during their conquest and following years of prosperity. After increasingly strong tension between the caliphate and various social and political groups, several religious uprisings, such as that of the Buyids and Fatimids, and the struggle of the Zanj Revolt, the Arabs found themselves on a steeply sloped decline. The Byzantine empire was also suffering hardships in this period. Economic problems and civil war weakened the Byzantine empire significantly immediately preceding the introduction of the Seljuk conquest. By the time Seljuk ruler Arp Arsalan led his forces into Anatolia for the infamous Battle of Manzikert, the Byzantines were unable to defend themselves and lost the majority of Anatolia to the Seljuks. Just as in the Arab’s rise to power, the Seljuk empire was established at a historically optimal time. The major powers of the region were suffering many different things that greatly hindered their ability to defend themselves from the conquest of the...
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